Do Most College Students Regret Their Degrees?

Do Most College Students Regret Their Degrees? (Courtesy of Taylar Dawn Stagner)

AlabamaA recent article by the Washington Post revealed that most college graduates with degrees in the liberal arts regret their majors. Those with degrees in STEM regretted their degrees less when compared to those with liberal degrees due to social cues valuing STEM and liberal arts degrees providing the lowest-paying jobs. 

As colleges have transformed over the decades from institutions of free, public learning to for-profit businesses have pivoted to marketing their ability to prepare students for the workplace. Your degree’s value is not correlated to the academic knowledge or joy involved with obtaining the degree. But rather your degree is evaluated on how much money it will help you accrue and the “practicality” associated with it or the “return on investment.” 

I had the opportunity to speak to three graduates about their post-graduate success, potential regrets and any student loan debt that may have restricted their prospects.  

Meghan Reints graduated from the University of South Alabama and received a bachelor's in History in 2014 and master’s in Public Administration in 2021. Terry Foster also graduated from South Alabama with a degree in Computer Science in 2022. Nicholas Burgman is a recent 2022 graduate of Morehouse College with a major in Sociology and a minor in Communications. 

Interestingly all of the interviewees graduated with minimal amounts of debt which has not inhibited them since graduating. In fact, each believed they would not regret or change their majors even if they did graduate with substantial amounts of debt. All said they enjoyed the work that they currently do and knew what they were passionate about despite often being pushed to pursue degrees in more lucrative fields. 

“To a certain extent it can’t always be about the money,” Burgman said. “Sometimes you have to know what you’re good at and what you’ll be successful in and I feel like that’s the route that I took. Not just whatever would make me the most money.”

Reints and Foster also offered interesting perspectives because they mentioned the job market is a reason why people may regret their degrees. 

In Mobile, Alabama, the market is not as friendly to liberal arts majors and computer science majors as opposed to larger markets. So, for people who live in smaller markets, it may be interesting to note that if they’re unable or unwilling to move, regardless of major, their job opportunities may be slim and the pay may not be as great. 

“Everyone that’s stayed in the Mobile and Baldwin County area has struggled to find jobs,” Reints said. “But I think that’s because of the market here in Mobile. Everyone that graduated with me and moved has been able to find a good job.” 

Even though Foster is a Computer Science graduate he still believes there is a need for all fields of study. Using his own experience taking courses deemed as a waste Foster says he understands the importance of the liberal arts despite its waning popularity. 

“I took a Gender Studies class just to see how it was and it is a very practical class,” Foster said. “You can go into a lot of different fields with Gender Studies because it covers such a wide basis of foundational knowledge. People will make a degree work.” 

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